Merkel casts doubt over German withdrawal from Afghanistan

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Merkel casts doubt over German withdrawal from Afghanistan

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on a surprise visit to Afghanistan, has cast doubt on plans to withdraw German troops from the war-torn country by 2014.

Merkel told German soldiers in the northern city of Mazar-e Sharif she couldn’t say for certain that the withdrawal would take place by NATO’s deadline.

“It’s very important for the Afghan people to know that we won’t leave them completely on their own when we withdraw. We will continue the reconstruction of Afghanistan, we will continue training and I think this is a very important message,” said Merkel.

During the visit, the Chancellor lunched with soldiers before paying tribute to German troops that have died in Afghanistan.

Germany currently has some 5,000 troops serving with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.

But opinion polls at home suggest that the German involvement in Afghanistan is unpopular with voters.